I forgot about this one earlier, because honestly, it didn't leave that much of an impression on me. I didn't hate it. I didn't particularly love it. It was just sort of meh. Julie is a confused teen, living in Portland in 1992. Her older brother, Jordan, was a big time swim star who's now living overseas. Julie develops a fascination with a girl named Alexis, who talks her into joining the swim team. Julie isn't really any good at it, and she doesn't enjoy it, but she likes the attention from Alexis so she keeps at it. Sara Jaffe's voice is definitely great, she's got the teen thing nailed, especially in the early '90s, it felt very authentic. It just didn't do much for me.
Yes, it's a children's book, but it was fun and well written. A quick read for sure. HIMYM's Jason Segel has teamed up with Kirsten Miller to write these books (there is at least one more). Charlie's mom passed away a few years earlier, and he's convinced his new stepmom is a witch. His family has had to move to her family's creepy ancestral mansion, and Charlie is having issues with insomnia and nightmares. He soon learns that his fear has opened a portal between the nightmare world and the waking world, and as a result nightmares are able to pass through to his side even when he's awake and torture him and his classmates. Charlie has to be brave and face his fears in order to close the portal and save his friends.
This is one of those books that made me sad to finish it, because it was really good, and it's one of those books no one will ever read. So I'm going to promote the heck out of it at work :) Juliet is stuck in the same small town she grew up in, in a dead end job cleaning rooms at a crappy motel. Once, she'd dreamed of escaping, of a bigger life, not living hand to mouth, but those dreams seem old and stale now. Then her old friend and rival from her high school track days, Maddy Bell, walks in the door at the motel. She wants to talk to Juliet, but Juliet feels snubbed by her expensive airs and dismisses her. She regrets it and vows to talk to her the next morning, but before she can, Maddy is found murdered. Now Juliet is determined to find out who killed her and why, and see if she can determine where her own life went so wrong. It was truly a page turner, I couldn't put it down. A great book that deserves more recognition.
Lawrence Block's latest, "The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes", kind of surprised me. Doak is a retired from the NYPD and living in Florida, occasionally doing private detective work. The local sheriff asks him to go undercover: he's gotten a report that the young wife of a wealthy local businessman has been asking around about how to knock off her husband. Doak poses as a hitman and tells the sheriff that Lisa has changed her mind and called it off. What really happened, though, is that Doak fell for Lisa, tipped her off, and the two of them conspire together to get rid of her husband and run away together. But now that Lisa is on the sheriff's radar, any accident that befalls her husband will throw suspicion directly on her, so Doak has to come up with an ingenious plan so they can get away with murder.
I'm not a huge chick-lit fan, but I like Wendy Wax, I've read others by her. This one was pretty good: after a five year estrangement from her best friends Serena and Mackenzie, Emma is finally ready to come clean about her long held secret that could rip the three of them apart for good. She invites them to spend a week at her family's lake house, a tradition they've had for years. On the day they're supposed to leave, however, Emma is struck by a car and ends up in the hospital in a coma. Mackenzie and Serena stay with her, taking care of her and her teenage daughter, Zoe. Emma finally emerges from her coma and once she's well enough to leave the hospital, the four of them travel to the lake house so Emma can recuperate (a side note: how nice would it be to have the type of job where you can just take a month off to help your sick friend recover? Who has a job like that?). While at the lake house old wounds finally begin to heal and secrets are of course revealed. I saw the major secret coming a mile away (yay me!) but it was still a good journey to get there.
I love, love, love Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita", and while rewatching the movie (the good one, with Jeremy Irons) a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that "Lolita" is the only book of his I've ever read. So I picked up "Laughter in the Dark". It was pretty good: Albert is a middle aged man with a mousy wife and a daughter. He's pretty mousy himself, until he starts an affair with a much younger woman. He ruins his happy family life by moving in with this girl, who quickly tires of her much older lover and takes a young boyfriend on the side, staying with Albert for his money. While on a trip Albert is in a car accident and blinded. Margot takes him to a secluded cabin in Switzerland to help him recover, and her boyfriend Rex also moves in. The two of them have much fun at the poor blind man's expense. I loved the tragic ending, it was so fitting.
I love the Orange County fair and the L.A. County fair. I just think fairs are so much fun. I enjoyed this brief history of the 125 years of the Orange County fair by Chris Epting. It had some great pictures from fairs of the past (historical photos are always so much fun to look at, I think) and told about how the fair started and how it's evolved over the years to the three week celebration it is today.
I love watching "The Little Couple" on TLC. Jen Arnold and Bill Klein are such positive role models, for people of all sizes, not just little people. This book mostly focused on their childhoods, overcoming the obstacles involved with being little and having to have multiple surgeries. How they met and fell in love was super sweet, and the book touched a little bit on what the show has covered: their move to Texas, their struggles to conceive, finally adopting Will and Zoey. It was very upbeat and happy. I love how they're able to stay so positive even when faced with adversity, it's very inspiring.
I loved Barry Lyga's Jasper Dent series, so I was eager to read this new one by him, along with Peter Facinelli (seriously? he writes?) and Robert DeFranco. It's a pretty good YA dystopian novel set in a future where nature has pretty much been destroyed by people. Everything is paved over, there are no more trees or flowers or animals, all food is genetically engineered in a lab. Deedra is out scavenging one day when she meets a teenage boy named Rose. He's clearly different, she's just not sure how. As they get to know each other, we learn that Rose is a plant/human hybrid: he can make vines grow from his body, he takes nutrients from the sun, not by eating. Rose is convinced that the workshop Deedra is slaving away in isn't making air cleaners, but rather a human killing machine. Rose is arrested for a murder he didn't commit, but Deedra is able to help him escape (sort of, it's a long story) and they go on the run. I'm guessing there will be a sequel.
Southern California was never meant to support the number of people who live here. Even 100 years ago, Los Angeles was scrambling for water. William Mulholland, either a saint or a demon, depending on your view, came up with the idea to build an aqueduct and have water come down from the Owens Valley. Standiford is very sympathetic to Mulholland, portrays him as a visionary and a conscientious man who only wanted the best for the people of his adopted city, a view I'd like to believe in as well. He was certainly a self-taught, hardworking man, that much can't be disputed.
I love Jen Lancaster. This latest work of fiction by her was so much fun. Kitty and Jack (short for Jacqueline) have hated each other ever since they roomed together in college. What started out as a promising friendship turned into bitter rivalry after a series of misunderstandings. The two could not be more different: Jack is a reporter who thrives on danger and Kitty is raising her three kids in a tony Chicago suburb while running a popular lifestyle blog. Now the only thing these two ladies can agree on is their mutual friend, Sarabeth ("Sars" to Jack, "Betsy" to Kitty). Sarabeth's husband, Trip, has been killed in a plane crash and the two put their differences aside to be there for Sarabeth. Reporter Jack smells a rat though: Trip was about to be indicted by the SEC for fraudulent practices, and the timing of his plane crash is awfully convenient. After Jack discovers Kitty despised Trip, she enlists her help in getting to the bottom of his disappearance. It was lots of fun, I loved the flashbacks to the ladies in college. I just hope women my age don't actually ever use phrases like "totes adorbs" except in an ironic way. Otherwise, that's just sad.
James Ellroy collected a bunch of the LAPD's crime scene photos from 1953 and published them alongside his sardonic wit and unique Ellroy slang, which made for interesting reading. I don't want to say it was fun, since it was, after all, a collection of horrific crimes, but it was definitely illuminating and different. I also learned that the LAPD has a museum! How neat is that? I'll have to make a trip up there and check it out.
Another Mickey Spillane reread, "Vengeance is Mine". Mike wakes up drunk in a hotel room with the dead body of an old buddy of his. He can't remember the night before, and the D.A. is itching to pin the murder on him. He takes away his P.I. License and his gun. Mike is able, with much help from Velda and Pat, to start to piece together the events leading up to his friend's murder. This book has one of the best closing sentences in the history of books, the first time I read it I literally gasped out loud. Did not see it coming a mile away.
Some more Mickey Spillane rereads! "My Gun is Quick" finds Mike down and out one night in a dive hash joint when he meets a red headed gal also down on her luck. Mike sees a glimmer of good beneath the hardened surface and gives her some money, tells her to get her act cleaned up. The next day, the red head is dead: an accident, the police determine, hit by a car. Very unfortunate, but Mike knows a murder when he sees one and starts investigating, wanting to give the girl a name and some dignity in her death. It was a great story, I enjoyed it.
Linda Fairstein's latest was really good. Early on in the book, Alex is kidnapped and the POV of the story switches, for the first time ever, to Detective Mike Chapman. Fairstein doesn't do a fantastic job writing from a male point of view, honestly, but it was still a fun change, and with Mike busy hunting for his best gal there wasn't any of the nasty repartee that Fairstein thinks of as flirtatious but I just find cringe worthy. It was nice to get some more background on Mike, too, he's quite likeable. I hope she pops into his head in some of her future books.
When I read the reviews for Victoria Patterson's latest, "The Little Brother", I knew I wanted to read it. Gabe and Even's parents get divorced, and Gabe stays behind with their mother in Rancho Cucamonga ("Rancho" for short, Victoria, never "Cucamonga". No one calls it that. "The IE" or "The 909" are also acceptable) while Even moves with their dad to Newport Beach (what are the odds?). Even is pretty happy in Newport (it helps that his dad is pretty wealthy, trust me, you're a lot happier in NB with money than without it) but he is concerned for his big brother Gabe. Whenever Gabe visits, he seems off, unhappy, complaining about being stuck with their needy, dependent mother. Then one fourth of July holiday Gabe comes to visit with some Rancho friends. Even leaves to go to a party with his friends. Later, one of his friends calls him: she has Gabe's video camera and is horrified by what's on there. She doesn't know what to do. When Even sees it, he doesn't know what to do either. He does know his brother could get in big trouble. Feeling sick and guilty, he turns the camera over anonymously to the police. It was a pretty good story, even if I winced every time I read the word "Cucamonga" by itself :)
I was disappointed by Philippa Gregory's latest, "The Taming of the Queen". I think Kathryn Parr is a fascinating woman, and I've read lots of fiction and nonfiction about her remarkable life at court, but most of this book is just religious debate. I understand that was a huge part of life for the time and place, but after about 200 pages of it, it's just repetitious and boring. I was also hoping for Gregory to touch on Kathryn's life after Henry died, but she didn't. If you enjoy reading the same theme over and over again for several hundred pages, then you'll like this one. Otherwise, skip it.
Two early novellas from the 70s, republished in one volume by Haruki Murakami. I enjoyed both of these stories very much, but what really stuck with me was the introduction. He talked about how he wrote the first one, and he was unhappy with it, so he wrote it all over again English. Since English isn't his native language, he was forced to write it very simply and straightforwardly, and he was pleased with the results. "Wind" is about a young man during his summer break from college who spends most of his free time hanging out in J's Bar, drinking with a slightly older man named Rat. The second story, "Pinball", features Rat's business partner and his obsession with a certain pinball machine.
"So Nude, So Dead" by Ed McBain was apparently his first published book, and Hard Case Crime has reprinted it (an aside: I love Hard Case Crime books. That is all). The reviews weren't very good, but I enjoyed it. Ray is a heroin junkie who wakes up one morning next to a dead blonde. He partied with Elaine the night before, both of them getting higher than kites, and now it's morning and Elaine has been shot to death and the sixteen ounces of heroin she had is gone. Ray is desperate for a fix, but the cops are after him, figuring he killed Elaine and took the heroin. Ray tries to figure out who killed her so he can clear his name, all while trying to locate some money and some heroin so he can fix. I thought McBain did a great job of getting his desperation through, and the ending made sense. Not bad. I wish someone would find a long lost 87th Precinct novel somewhere, I really miss those.